Glendale Nitros on top for three quarters, before Panthers run ragged

IRVINE — Pasadena Poly and Glendale High’s clash for the CIF Southern Section Division V championship Saturday at the William J. Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine was a classic contrast of styles, one which the Panthers ultimately won, 12-10.

But it wasn’t until the final stretch of the back-and-forth match that Poly’s streaking up-tempo style emerged as the victor over the Nitros’ halfcourt forte.

Glendale thrived this season, en route to the tournament’s No. 1 seed, on a precision inside-out offense based on feeding hulking hole/set Arman Momdzhyan and relying on a supporting cast of sharpshooters when the primary option was denied.

“Arman’s our go-to guy, he’s had a tremendous year,” Glendale Coach Forest Holbrook said. “He did his job, he was able to put the ball in the hands of our outside shooters and our outside shooters just weren’t able to make Poly pay.”

Poly Coach Ryan Katsuyama said that was a byproduct of his team’s overall strategy of trying to run the Nitros ragged, one which didn’t always seem destined to work, as the Panthers entered the final period trailing, 9-6.

“We knew coming into this game that we were going to push the counter and make them swim the entire game, and if it came down to the fourth quarter, the fourth quarter was ours,” Katsuyama said. “You could tell when we outscored them, 6-1, that it was definitely ours tonight.”

Poly’s counter-attack picked up steam in the early stages of the fourth, as the Panthers got right back in the game and took their first lead with a blistering 4-0 run over the first 3:21. Standout Spencer Rogers also finally began to make an impact on the match during the run, as he scored two goals in that span and three overall in the fourth quarter.

“We knew they had a counter-attack, we did a really good job at stopping them for the first three [quarters],” Holbrook said. “It just came down to a fantastic effort on [Rogers’] part.”

Glendale’s secondary options proved effective over the first three quarters. While Momdzhyan was held to just two goals in the match, David Papazian led the squad with four and Martin Chatalyan stepped up with three. But by the final period, the pace Poly was forcing seemed to take its toll on the Nitros’ legs.

“They were hitting some outside shots, but you could tell in the fourth quarter they were getting a little bit tired and their legs weren’t underneath them” Katsuyama said. “Their shots were sailing wide and high.”

Glendale would score just once more after widening its lead to three in the third, as Poly’s tempo, not to mention effective perimeter defense, began to take its toll.

“It’s just tough; they play a really good zone defense, they have really good shot blocking and were forcing us to take bad angles,” Holbrook said. “We took a few shots they would love to have back.”

Neither team made a secret of the key to their success heading into the finals, nor did either adjust its approach. Rather one dared the other to stop it, and on this night, Poly had the winning formula.

“That’s the way we play,” Katsuyama said. “We wear teams down and the fourth quarter is always ours.”

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